More Canadian BSE

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jan 14, 2005
by WLJ
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in that nation’s cowherd last Tuesday. The latest cow was not a herd mate to a BSE-positive animal discovered only nine days prior and was a purebred Charolais under seven years of age.
CFIA said that while testing the cow they kept control of the carcass, and no part of the animal’s remains entered the human food or animal feed production chains. The agency also said that because the animal is purebred it will help facilitate traceback and discovery of any related animals that may have been exposed to the disease.
Marc Richard, spokesman with CFIA, said the rancher noticed the cow was lagging behind when he was bringing her in from pasture. A veterinarian took a sample of the suspect cow at the ranch and sent the sample for the preliminary rapid testing at the Alberta Provincial Lab on Jan. 7. That lab is one of several facilities approved by Canada as part of a network of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) laboratories. When the rapid test revealed a positive result, the cow’s sample was sent to the federal Winnipeg lab to undergo testing under the international gold standard immunohistochemistry (IHC) test. The results were confirmed on Jan. 11 and the BSE announcement was made.
The cow was born in March 1998, meaning Canada’s ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban was in place prior to the animal being born. The U.S. and Canada both established laws to prohibit the feeding of these products believed to spread BSE by an animal ingesting meat or bone meal made from the rendered parts of a contaminated animal. Canada implemented a ban in August 1997.
Cindy McCreath, communications manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), said the most recent infection could be tracked back to the animal eating feed that was grandfathered in by the feed ban.
“It’s important to note that while the feed ban began in August 1997, there was no recall issued at that time on feed ingredients already in the system.” She said it was likely the cow was exposed to feed that was produced prior to the feed ban and was stored on a farm an extra long time. She added that does not indicate a lack of feed ban compliance at this stage of the investigation.
The other three BSE-positive cow’s originating from Canada were all born prior to the feed ban and investigations into their infection indicated that they had come in contact with BSE- contaminated feed.
McCreath said, “We have confidence in our regulators to ensure the effectiveness of the ban. The low incidence of BSE in Canada, as shown by the surveillance program, is evidence that the ban is working. The CCA fully supports a review and validation of the implementation of Canada’s feed ban.”
Jan Lyons, Kansas producer and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said, “America’s cattlemen insist that the feed ban be strictly enforced, and we must be assured Canada is in full compliance. We demand that USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate Canada’s feed ban compliance. Based on this information, USDA and FDA should determine how to proceed with regard to the implementation of the Canadian rule.”
Dr. Ron DeHaven, administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said, “Since this animal is born shortly after the implementation of Canada’s feed ban and to determine is there are any potential links among the positive animals, we will expedite sending a technical team to Canada to evaluate the circumstances surrounding these recent finds. We appreciate Canada’s willingness to cooperate and assist us in these efforts. We will continue our ongoing work with Canadian officials in their epidemiological investigations to determine the facts of these cases.”
A team of investigators was sent to Canada last Wednesday to initiate the investigation into Canada’s implementation of its feed ban and the overall effectiveness of its rule. An FDA investigative team will be sent into Canada to research the feed ban sometime before Jan. 21.
According to Richard, CFIA is looking to invite a separate international review panel to evaluate the same issues as USDA and FDA.
On the other side of the issue, R-CALF USA does not believe the feed ban is enough to prevent the spread of BSE. R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard criticized Canadian officials’ comments during a news conference about the feed ban. Bullard quoted the officials as saying the feed ban was enough of a safeguard to prevent the spread of BSE into the Canadian cattle herd and into the human food supply.
“However,” Bullard said, “during Europe’s BSE crisis, Europe also implemented a feed ban, yet, cases of BSE were discovered 12 years after the feed ban was put into place.” He also emphasized that, given the new finding, USDA should immediately withdraw its final rule allowing Canadian cattle and beef from cattle over 30 months of age into the U.S.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) joined in the sentiment that USDA should revoke the final cattle import rule.
Dave Frederickson, NFU president, said, “The National Farmers Union reiterates its call for Congress to reject, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to immediately abandon, efforts to reopen the Canadian border to live cattle. In addition, we urge USDA to rescind its rule allowing Canadian boxed beef to enter the United States. It would be negligent to jeopardize consumer confidence and our domestic cattle market with these rules.
“Of the 23 countries with documented cases of BSE, 70 percent have discovered subsequent cases in the months and years that follow. This latest discovery is further evidence that the Canadian cattle herd is infected with BSE, and the safeguards put into place in Canada to prevent the disease are not properly working.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee expressed disappointment in USDA’s failure to reevaluate plans to reopen the Canadian border through last week. However, the Senate Agriculture Committee did commit to holding a hearing.
Harkin said, “Critical questions exist about the efficacy of both the Canadian anti-BSE effort and our own anti-BSE policies. Addressing these concerns has to be a top priority of USDA before more broadly opening the border to Canadian beef and cattle.”
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, sent a letter to outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, asking USDA to withdraw the Canadian final rule to allow imports to resume.
“Today’s announcement reminds us that we do not know the prevalence of BSE in Canada’s herd until they have completed their testing program,” said Enzi.
To date, CFIA says it has tested 24,000 head of cattle for BSE. This is the third positive BSE test in Canada and the fourth case of BSE in an animal of Canadian origin.
Enzi indicated that he supported reopening the border after export markets were reestablished. That is a similar position to Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-ND, who introduced legislation earlier this month delaying Canadian cattle imports until U.S. beef export markets were reopened to pre-BSE levels.
“From the producer perspective, it is imperative that we reopen our export markets before we allow our domestic market to be flooded with Canadian cattle ... The border opening must be done in a way that minimizes economic impact to domestic producers,” Enzi said.
No health
On the other side of the issue, the American Meat Institute (AMI) and NCBA wanted to ensure that consumer confidence here in the U.S. is not damaged by the announcement of this latest case of BSE. AMI emphasized that the meat never entered the food chain. However, they did say that had the meat been sold for human consumption, it would have been safe because the risk materials where the contaminating agent is found is required to be removed. “Those are the only tissues where BSE has ever been found,” said James Hodges, AMI president.
Lyons agreed, saying consumers should remember BSE is not found in beef such as steaks, roasts and ground beef.
Hodges also said, “There are multiple firewalls in place to detect BSE if it exists in North America and prevent the contamination of the food supply. This animal was identified because it had been detected under the Canadian surveillance system.”
On a final note, Hodges said it is important that the U.S. tries to fully understand the significance and the demand that public officials make policy decisions based on sound science. AMI encouraged USDA to move forward with the decision to open the border on March 7.
CFIA said the results of a full internal audit of the Canadian feed rule, as well as the traceback and traceout of this animal to find any subsequent contaminated animals should be completed before March 7.